Friday, July 31, 2015

Annette Lyon Collection, Anthology by Annette Lyon

If you enjoy genuine, touching stories of love, renewal, and hope you will enjoy the Annette Lyon Collection which is the newest release from A Timeless Romance Anthology. This collection of romance novellas will take you around the world and into the world of some touching but seemingly common love stories.

From Yellowstone to Finland, from Las Vegas to New York, from home to back home, Lyon introduces us to genuine people who long to find love and hope in different circumstances. I was impressed with how varied and believable Lyon makes her story settings as well as her characters. Each novella had unique twists and delights.

While I enjoyed all the novels, my favorite was Between the Lines. I loved how Lyon used great literature to build her plot. Lyon’s use of one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Portuguese sonnets, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” is an apt description for Lyon’s newest collection of novellas. Available in ebook format only.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Navigator Trilogy

In The Navigator (the first book of a trilogy), by Eoin Mcnamee, we meet Owen. Owen’s father died when he was a baby, possibly a suicide, and his mother is profoundly depressed and often seems not to know who Owen is. Owen must look after her while dealing with the stares and isolation he feels at school. One day, while at his “den” in the woods, the world goes suddenly dark. Owen learns that time is now flowing backward. He finds out that he is the Navigator, and that he must help his new friend Cati and the Resistors, a group who only wake when they must prevent their ancient enemies, the Harsh, from destroying the world.

I enjoyed this book. It is written for middle school kids. I enjoy stories in which ordinary people must do heroic things. It’s probably not scientifically accurate, but I’m OK with that.

The second book in the trilogy is City of Time. Owen, Cati and Dr. Diamond must travel to Hadima, the City of Time, where in the past time was bought, sold and traded, to get some time and save the world. The Harsh have returned and are stealing time, which is literally running out. The world is ending and the moon is on track to collide with the earth, causing natural disasters on the way. I think I enjoyed this book more than the first. I liked Hadima and all the new characters introduced there.

In the final book, The Frost Child, the Harsh are seeking revenge for past defeats and the death of their king. They’ve sent a fleet of ships across the seas of time to destroy Owen and his friends. Owen travels through time and meets his father and grandfather who help him understand that the mysterious Frost Child is the key to defeating the Harsh.

If you have elementary and middle school children, they will enjoy this series. It’s a fun adventure, full of heroism and worth the read.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard many years ago. I remember thinking it was difficult and that I wanted to write like her. I decided to listen to the audio version, and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than when I read it the first time. It is one of three books I’ve given away as gifts.

This book is long-form, narrative nonfiction, not a collection of essays (as people often think). It’s about a year Dillard spent exploring Tinker Creek and environs, near her home in Virginia, and thinking big thoughts. Dillard is observant, and has taught herself to be still and wait. When you do that, there is no end to the wonders nature will show you. I'd like to be better at that myself. Some of the more gruesome moments I remembered from the first time I read it, such as when a giant water bug sucked the life from a frog. There were also many beautiful moments.

I’m not sure how to sum up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It makes me want to write better, and it makes me want to explore nature more deeply, and it makes me want to read more widely. It won the Pulitzer Prize when it was originally published in the 1970s.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See

(I wrote this post back in May and am just now getting it posted on here.)

Apparently I am on a, IShouldReadSadWorldWarIIbooks, kick. I read The Book Thief a couple of months ago and I just recently finished All the Light We Cannot See.  

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish this book (and felt it the next day at work). I had to see what happened. How was it all going to end?

All the Light We Cannot See is a book based during World War II. Marie-Laure is a French girl who lives with her father in Paris. Her father works at a nearby museum where he is the master of all the keys in the building. Marie-Laure goes blind at a young age and her father builds her a small model of the city so that she can learn her way around and get about by herself. Marie-Laure and her father eventually have to evacuate Paris as the Nazis come and occupy the city. They escape to Saint Malo, a small coastal town in France, where Marie-Laure's crazy great-uncle lives.

Werner is a German boy, who lives with his sister and other orphans in an orphanage in a small German mining town. He and his sister find a broken radio one day and bring it home. Werner studies the radio for awhile and then fixes it quite easily. People in town start to come to him to get their radios fixed. When he comes of age, he is recruited by the Hitler Youth because of his age but partly because of him being mechanically minded.

Of course, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner interconnect at some point. This book is not what I expected it to be, but I really liked it!

The stories in this book tell tales of courage and guilt and love and selfishness and obsession and goodness and doubt etc etc. I thought the book was well written. I really got sucked into the book and grew to like the characters or not like the characters depending on who they were. I must say, though, that the author switches back and forth between time periods and stories and at the beginning I had a hard time keeping track, but it eventually became easier as I grew to know the stories and characters.

Having read The Book Thief in the past couple of months and now this book, I think it's time for a more lighthearted and not so realistic book. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets here I come...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A few more books

The Iron Empire by James Dashner. The 7th book in the children’s Infinity Ring series in which we find out if Dak, Sera, and Riq save the world from the Cataclysm. These are fun books that might teach your kids a little about history, friendship, and working together.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This is the classic tale of the adventures of Rat, Mole and their friends along the river and in the woods. I was hoping to enjoy this a little more than I did.

Fat Cat by Robin Brande. This is a YA book that I read because it was about a fat teenager, although she doesn’t remain fat for long. Cat is a smart student whose goal is to win the science fair and beat her former friend and rival Matt. She decides to transform herself by living like our prehistoric ancestors. I got a little annoyed at Cat, and her transformation seemed a bit too easy. I was pleased with the outcome of the science fair.

Whittington by Alan Armstrong is a Newbery honor book. It is about a fighting tomcat who asks for a place to live in a barn. He tells both the animals and children of the family who own the barn the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat. Along the way, the telling of this tale helps one of the children who is struggling with reading problems.

The Web: Gulliverzone by Stephen Baxter. This is a kid’s book that I found on my shelf. It takes place on World Peace Day in 2027. In honor of the holiday, there is free access to virtual theme parks on the Web. Sarah and George go to the most popular park based on Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and find themselves in Lilliput where danger lurks.

Hate that Cat: A Novel by Sharon Creech. I love Sharon Creech’s books, and this is a sequel to Love that Dog. The story is told entirely through Jack’s poems. Jack is learning about poetry and dealing with life by reading and writing in Miss Stretchberry’s class. Not as good as the previous book, but still worth reading.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I haven’t decided if I enjoyed this book or not, but it was worth reading. It made me sad. It’s the story of autistic Christopher who finds a dog that’s been murdered. He likes dogs, so he decides to investigate. Along the way, he learns a lot about his family even when he has trouble making sense of it. This book gives good insight into a mind that doesn’t work like yours or mine. I sort of wonder if a boy like Christopher could really write a book like this. In order to explain things to someone, you have to understand that they think differently than you and have different feelings, and he really can’t comprehend what goes on in other people’s heads.

The World’s Wife: Poems by Carol Ann Duffy. This is a collection of poems in which many important events from history or mythology are told from the women’s perspectives. It was bawdy (to say the least), bitter and angry. It’s a clever idea, but I could not get past all that anger. I did like one line from the poem Eurydice, “But already the light had saddened from purple to grey.”

Eighty Days

I listened to the audio version of Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman. It is the true story of two women journalists’ attempts to beat the fictional Phileas Fogg’s record of traveling around the world in 80 days. I won’t spoil the outcome for you.

Nellie Bly was a reporter who made a name for herself with daring, sometimes dangerous, undercover reporting, including getting herself admitted to an insane asylum. Elizabeth Bisland was a genteel southern belle who was a columnist for The Cosmopolitan magazine (I think the magazine was a little different than it is now). While these women were very different, they were both trying to be successful in the male-dominated world of journalism.

Bly had asked her bosses at the World newspaper a year earlier to let her make a solo trip around the world. Of course, if it was going to happen, a man should do it. In the face of dropping circulation, the World needed some good publicity, and what better publicity than a woman traveling around the world, by herself and creating a new world record while she was at it. So Bly set off on November 14, 1889 by ship to Europe. The editor at The Cosmopolitan thought this would be great publicity as well, and about 8 hours after Bly, he sent off his reporter in the opposite direction by train.

What follows is an exciting account of two women’s journeys around the world interspersed with information on their backgrounds, what it was like to be a woman in journalism, and several asides that put their journeys into context. We learn about both publications, about Jules Verne, who consented to meet with Bly when she got to France, and Joseph Pulitzer, among others.

The race was interesting, but what I liked about the book was the contrast in personalities of the two ladies. Bisland hadn’t wanted to go, but once she was on the journey, she made the most of it. While Bly was all about getting the job done. After the race we read about both the immediate aftermath of the race and how fame changed the lives of these women, especially the winner. The epilogue tells what happens to both women for the rest of their lives and makes the reader wonder if the winner of the race really did win after all, at least as pertained to life outcomes.

Later in life, Nellie Bly helped many people. She was often criticized by those who thought she might be helping unworthy people. I liked what she said in response, “Relieve immediately. Investigate afterwards.”

Both women are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY which has so many famous people buried there, that the graves of these ladies are not included on the website. Maybe I’ll have to go visit.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in journalism, history, travel or women’s issues. It’s well worth the read.